Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Marathon Running and the Heart

I am participating in a research study entitled The Impact of Full Marathon Running on Cardiovascular Function.   Ok, ok, I lie... the study is really entitled The Impact of Full Marathon Running on Cardiovascular Function in the Elderly, but I struggle with the elderly reference.  I don't feel elderly, don't look elderly, don't think elderly, but I suppose old Neil Young is right... rust never sleeps. Life doesn't run, it creeps along, slow like a snail.


The study examines the impact of endurance running on the heart in men and women, 50 years and older who have run at least two marathon in the last two years... that me!  The opening paragraph in the 5-page waver form reads in part:


Full marathon running has become an immensely popular sport throughout the world.  But can too much exercise be harmful to the heart?  Physical fitness has been shown to be a long time predictor of reduced illness and death from cardiovascular causes.  Although the cardiovascular benefits of moderate exercise is well known, the cardiovascular effects of prolonged physical exertion is less clear.  Even though the risks of sudden death associated with participation in endurance sport is small, participation in such events consistently associated with biochemical evidence of heart damage and dysfunction.


Heart Damage? Dysfunction?  Gulp!  And I thought it was all good.  


Don't get your shorts in a knot... don't panic, running is good for you, but like any overconsumption there are worries.  So be smart, don't over do it, but don't stop running... now THAT would be bad for you.


One week before the marathon I give a blood sample and receive an Echocardiogram of the heart (basically, a real-time video of the heart with sound in action, tres cool).  Tomorrow I get a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI).  On the day of the marathon I'm kidnapped from the finish line and driven to St. Boniface Hospital where I get more blood drawn and a second Echocardiogram.  Later that week I go in for a second MRI and seven days after marathon day I go back for a 3rd blood sample, and a 3rd Echocardiogram.  Finally, 6 months later, I return for a Cardiac Tomography.


Oh, and one more thing, I have to provide a very detailed food record for the three days leading up to the marathon.  We're talking VERY detailed itemizing of everything I consume except water.


What's in it for me (besides the fame and glory)... nothing actually, other than if a irregularity is detected, I would get immediate access to medical professionals.  Also, the food record is carefully analyzed and they will provide me with a list of what enzymes and vitamins my body lacks.  I'll also have access to my results once the research study is completed.


Now if I could just convince them to pay for the parking I'd be one happy camper... errrr, make that runner.  Stay tuned.


It's a good day to have a ticking heart.


Mike
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